News of Bill Cosby’s overturned sexual assault conviction is expected to send shock waves through the survivors’ community, with advocates fearing it could deter people from coming forward to seek justice.
Mary Claire Landry leads the New Orleans Family Justice Center, a nonprofit that provides support and services to survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, stalking, human trafficking and child abuse. She anticipates the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s decision will lead to an uptick in demand at the center.
“Whenever there is a big story like this in the news, inevitably, we are going to get calls from people that we may have seen years ago, or people who have never gotten counseling services for something that happened to them,” Landry said.
The main concern for Landry and other advocates is that Cosby’s release from prison will lead survivors to believe their decision to seek accountability for their assailants could ultimately be fruitless. The chances that a reported incident will result in a conviction and imprisonment for the perpetrator are already slim, according to data.
The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network uses statistics from the U.S. Justice and health departments to calculate estimates related to sexual assault. It projected that for every 1,000 assault cases, 975 perpetrators will walk free. Only 310 of those incidents are reported police, and just 50 reports will lead to an arrest. Out of the 50 arrests, 28 will result in felony convictions and 25 perpetrators will be incarcerated.
RAINN’s figures for rape are even more discouraging for survivors. Out of 1,000 rapes, just 384 will be reported to police, who will make 57 arrests. Only 11 of these cases will be prosecuted, resulting in seven felony convictions and six incarcerations.
“It’s just really frustrating,” Landry said. “It’s a very difficult situation for survivors even to come forward and agree to participate in the process.”
The New Orleans Family Justice Center staffs a crisis hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Landry said its staff is ready to listen to anyone who might find themselves in need of assistance.